In the time of Jane Austen music was an essential part of a young ladys education, and an important weapon in her sexual armoury. Jane Austen herself was not an outstanding performer, but she kept a handwritten music book, and the fact that she didMoreIn the time of Jane Austen music was an essential part of a young ladys education, and an important weapon in her sexual armoury.
Jane Austen herself was not an outstanding performer, but she kept a handwritten music book, and the fact that she did play contributed something to her greatness as a novelist. Most of her female characters played or sang too, and Patrick Piggott shows us just how much the well-loved stories and scenes owe to music.
In Emma an important part of the story hinges on the mischievous rumours and embarrassment that follow the anonymous gift of an expensive pianoforte. Evenings of musical entertainment, especially in the home, are used to draw characters and design encounters: in Pride and Prejudice Darcy and Elizabeth begin to understand and admit their mutual attraction while she takes her turn at the piano, and in Mansfield Park Mary Crawford uses her harp as a lure to fascinate Edmund Bertram.Patrick Piggott was a pianist and a composer, and his unashamed passion for the works of Jane Austen shines off every page of this delightful book.
In his opening Apologia he states that the book is for readers who share my own intense delight in Jane Austens art. He begins with chapters on music in Jane Austens own life - what she played, what she listened to, what she liked, and on public music making in Regency England, especially in Bath. We learn which classical pieces and folk songs were popular, and about some of the better-known performers of the time. There are illustrations of scores, artists, and bill boards.The author then turns to the novels, plunging himself completely into each musical scenario in a way that will delight Janeites of every stripe.
He works out what Catherine Morland would have heard at the concert she attended in Bath in Northanger Abbey, and what music formed the background to Captain Wentworths proposal in the denouement of Persuasion. He teases out the way a heroines music and playing, sometimes even her instrument, are skilfully woven into the stories of her joys and sorrows.
The book finishes with chapters on the collections of Jane Austens music books.